The Guilty Pleasure: Mass-market holiday novelties Where to Get Them: Your favorite grocery store, mostly Price: A few bucks. Easy impulse buy if you see them in the store. What They Really Cost: Like you needed another excuse to eat more this time of year.
Now that it's almost December and pumpkin-flavored mania is on the wane, snack manufacturers are turning their eye to a wider array of sweet treats. There's always an air of comforting familiarity to them, but not always in unexpected ways. On a recent grocery store run, I picked up a few limited-run holiday treats to see if they're worth the calories.
See also: Sweet (Christmas) Dreams from Chow Bella
Chex Mix Muddy Buddies For all I know, General Mills has been making bagged Muddy Buddies (better known to many as Puppy Chow, but given a different name by General Mills for several reasons) for ages and I'm only now noticing it because they gave it a cute holiday-themed bag. Considering the only time of year I've seen bowls of Muddy Buddies is winter holiday time, I might as well throw it on the list in case you're as morbidly curious as I was.
On the surface, these look pretty similar to the homemade version, at least until you notice they're unsettlingly uniform. That's where the similarities end. The homemade version has a good dose of chocolate and peanut butter, but there isn't much of either flavor here. There's a vague peanut flavor, and maybe a hint of chocolate, but all I get is sweetened Chex.
Much like standard Chex Mix, the bagged stuff doesn't hold a candle to the real homemade version. Considering that Muddy Buddies are dead easy to make (General Mills has a convenient recipe on their website) and the recipe makes a ton more for a little more cash the only reason I see to buy bagged Muddy Buddies is as an impulse buy that gets devoured before you get home.
Lay's Wavy Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate I'm amazed that of the various items I picked up, chocolate-covered potato chips aren't the weirdest. I'm a little nervous as to what The Powers That Be will come up with next year. Anyway, the folks at Lay's have released chocolate-covered potato chips as an exclusive item at Target. Target did a good job hiding them. After asking staff, I eventually found the chips in the very back of the holiday food section.
$3.49 seems a little steep for a small bag of potato chips, but keep in mind these are chocolate-covered potato chips. How do they taste? I was pleasantly surprised. Granted, I enjoy a good sweet/salty combo, so I shouldn't be that surprised. The chocolate takes center stage. While the chocolate is on the waxy side, it's at least better than the grainy crud Hershey's tries to pass off as chocolate.
Personally, I could have gone for a little less chocolate in the equation; your average salted butter caramel has a bigger salty hit than these chips. However, Lay's knew what they were doing. My palate is hardly a barometer for the way most Americans eat, as much as I would like to believe otherwise. The general public will want this more toward the sweet side, keeping this more toward a decadent treat than a weird novelty item. I could see a bowl of these going over very well at a quirky holiday party.
Pecan Pie Pringles Last year, Pringles had the idea to do a couple of holiday-themed flavors. White chocolate and peppermint was not so well received. Some described it as like eating toothpaste-flavored chips. The other flavor, cinnamon sugar, had a bit more favorable response. So, it makes sense that Pringles would stay a little closer to the latter flavor for this year's offerings. The flavor they chose to introduce this year is pecan pie.
I've eaten a lot of weird things for this column; the Pecan Pie Pringles rank near the top of the Weird-O-Meter. To Pringles' credit, they used real butter and (dried) molasses instead of relying entirely on artificial flavoring.
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The taste of these didn't really say "pecan pie". If anything, it tasted a lot like Lay's Chicken and Waffles chips from this past summer, minus the chicken. The aftertaste did have a lingering nutty flavor. The flavor was distinctly more breakfast than dessert. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The first couple of chips that I sampled confused the hell out of my brain. Once my brain decided that the flavor was closer to buttery waffles and syrup, I started to enjoy them quite a bit. I'm not sure what you'd serve as a main dish if Pecan Pie Pringles were the side. Maybe the traditional Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries?
While I was munching these, I had a brilliant idea; I hope that next year, the Pringles guys figure out sweet potato Pringles. I'd eat the hell out of a few cans of either of this year's holiday Pringles flavors in a sweet potato variety.